Things are about to get explosive in “The O.C.,” says show creator Josh Schwartz. And it’s only fair, considering the effect the popular teen drama has had on the writer’s career.
Schwartz was only 26 — a recent graduate from the University of Southern California — when “The O.C.” premiered on Fox in 2003. The show was an instant must-see, spawning imitators and making stars out of actors Mischa Barton, Rachel Bilson, Benjamin McKenzie and Adam Brody.
Schwartz himself is now a bona fide Hollywood hit, hobnobbing with heavyweights such as George Lucas, who guest-starred on an “O.C.” episode last year.
Schwartz’s folks have weekly viewing parties in their Providence, R.I. home. His dad, Steve, calls him during commercials with his running critique.
“He’s very honest,” Schwartz said.
With his chocolate Lab, Maya, competing for his attention, Schwartz, 29, talked with The Associated Press about the season finale of “The O.C.” and what’s next for his characters and his career.
AP: What’s hot in “The O.C.” right now?
Schwartz: We’re in the home stretch, like the last 10 episodes of the season when the show always kicks it up a notch. I think it’s going to resemble those first six episodes of the [first] summer. It’s got that kind of vibe to it, kinda crazy, anything goes. We have a lot of returning faces. The kids are getting into colleges, the Cohen family life is about to explode, it’s going to be pretty cool. It’s all going to get very emotional, very explosive and really fun.
AP: You started a genre, and a frenzy, with “The O.C.” What is it about the show that really captures the young audience?
Schwartz: It’s a certain alchemy of great cast and a really fun world. I think the show has a really fun kind of tone. We try to tell emotional stories but we don’t ever try to take ourselves too seriously. Hopefully some really good music. Hopefully an entertaining package and people want to watch.
AP: Does the show resemble your life?
Schwartz: Not at all. I grew up in Providence, R.I. My family life probably resembled the season one Cohens, before it got dark in the Cohen house. When I grew up, it was a much sunnier home. It’s sort of a little bit based on my experiences at USC, as kind of a neurotic Jewish kid from the East Coast who arrives in the land of water-polo players and their girlfriends. I guess that was the original impetus behind the show, and it’s sort of evolved from there.
AP: What do you think of the imitators of “The O.C.?”
Schwartz: Who would those be, “Laguna Beach?” Now there’s this desperate housewives of Orange County show on Bravo. It’s crazy. It’s weird. And then “Laguna Beach” became a big deal in its own right. The tent’s big enough for everybody to come hang out, I guess. The show is certainly influenced by a lot of different things and borne out of that, so it’s cool if we can do the same things for other shows.
AP: You were surprised by it?
Schwartz: Totally. I continue to be surprised. We didn’t think we were going to last past the first six episodes of August . So everything that’s come after has been kind of amazing.
AP: Do you have plans in the works for other shows? Where do you see things going next?
Schwartz: Every time I’ve tried to go off and think about or start writing another pilot, I end up finding myself drawn back to “The O.C.” It’s too much fun to work on, too much work to try to do both.
AP: Let’s talk about your next project, “Looking for Alaska.”
Schwartz: “Looking for Alaska” is a book that I’m adapting for Paramount to direct. It’s set at a Southern boarding school and it’s about that girl in high school that’s sort of unknowable, unattainable, an ultimately tragic girl and all the guys in school are in love with her. It’s told through the point of view of this one kind of socially awkward kid who’s arrived at the school and, in falling in love with her, he has to grow up and come of age. It’s kind of like your classic coming-of-age story, first love, first loss. ... It’s been fun to work on that and work on something different and work on a movie.
AP: What is your attraction to this age group of characters?
Schwartz: I guess there’s a part of me that will always feel like a teenager, that sort of still feels like a teenager. It’s such a rich time in your life. Everything is really new, you’re experiencing things and everything feels like life-and-death and really huge and momentous and epic. And as you get older, you start to roll with it a little bit more and you start to become a little more cynical, a little less open to the world I guess.
AP: What kind of impact has “The O.C.” had on your career and your life?
Schwartz: It’s been just the most remarkable roller coaster ride in the last couple of years and it was totally unexpected and really thrilling. I had no idea what I was doing when I started and now I feel like I’ve learned to become a professional. In your mid to late-20s, it’s kind of a crazy time in your life anyway, you’re just kind of figuring yourself out and coming to terms with growing up and all that, and to have that simultaneous with something like this happening was doubly overwhelming.
We had George Lucas on the show. I’ve gotten to meet Steven Spielberg at some function and his kids watch “The O.C.” Just being able to have all these bands that I love on the show, all this music, so it’s been really crazy. And it’s really fun. It’s been fun to be able to share this with my family. My parents have “O.C.” viewing parties every Thursday night with all their friends. I got my sister an internship on the show.
AP: What’s the best part?
Schwartz: Getting to come to work every day. I mean, getting to wake up in the morning and be like, OK, this is what I always wanted to do and I get to do it.
AP: Will we be following “The O.C.” characters into college and beyond?
Schwartz: I think we’ve got at least one more good year in us, so we’re going to do some pretty radical stuff at the end of this year. The season finale is going to be the craziest thing we’ve ever done and it will launch the show in a whole new direction next year. So I’m excited about next season. And then beyond, I don’t know. We’ll see.